Female inmates in Arizona only got 12 free pads a month. A movement helped triple that.

(CNN)Incarcerated women in Arizona will now receive 36 free sanitary pads a month, instead of the 12 they were originally given, according to the state’s Department of Corrections.

“As is the current practice, an inmate may request and, without charge, receive additional pads, if necessary,” a Tuesday statement reads. “Additional product options will continue to be available through the inmate store. We believe this change addresses and resolves, in an appropriate and timely fashion, the concerns raised in the last week.”
The news comes days after women kicked off the #LetItFlow campaign in which they sent state Rep. Thomas “T.J.” Shope pads, tampons and money in response to a bill that stalled in the Arizona House of Representatives. House Bill 2222 looks to provide female inmates in Arizona with an unlimited supply of feminine hygiene products at no cost to the inmates.
    The bill made it through the all-male Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee on February 5 with a 5-4 vote, however, it needed to pass through the House Rules Committee to continue.
    Shope, the Republican chair of the rules panel, stalled the bill because the Department of Corrections said it was revising the policy. A House Republican Caucus spokesman said the department’s revision made Shope’s hearing of the bill “redundant.”
    Democratic Rep. Athena Salman, who introduced the bill, called the department’s revision “a huge victory for women.”
    “While this is welcome news, in the future we would like to see this new policy codified in a way that can’t be undone by a new director or governor,” Salman said. “We will also remain vigilant to make sure it’s implemented as promised, with no unnecessary barriers to women receiving any products they need.”
    Salman said she has a commitment from the governor’s office to explore expanding the policy to include tampons.
    Robbie Sherwood, communications director for House Democrats, said Salman is no longer pushing for HB 2222 this session.
    “We are declaring victory that they are tripling the amount allotted to women,” Sherwood said.
    In a statement to CNN, Shope applauded the Department of Corrections for revising its policy.
    “Every human being is deserving of respect,” he said. “When I first became aware of this issue, I reached out to (the Arizona Department of Corrections) and urged them to explore changing the policy, as an administrative change can be implemented much quicker than a change in statute.”
    Shope also thanked Salman for bringing the issue to the public’s attention.
    “Her determination and perseverance on this issue has certainly made a difference,” he said.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/14/us/arizona-department-of-corrections-feminine-hygiene-products/index.html

    Larry Nassar sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse

    (CNN)Once a world-renowned sports physician treating America’s foremost Olympic women gymnasts, Larry Nassar now will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

    “I’ve just signed your death warrant,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom. “I find that you don’t get it, that you’re a danger. That you remain a danger.”
    Nassar had pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County in Michigan and admitted to using his trusted medical position to assault and molest girls under the guise of medical treatment.
      He offered a short statement in court, apologizing and saying that hearing seven days of victim impact statements had shaken him to his core.
      “There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred,” Nassar said. “An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”
      But before delivering her sentence, Aquilina read aloud a letter Nassar wrote to the court recently in which he defended his medical care, said he was “manipulated” into pleading guilty, and accused the women of lying.
      “I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over,” Nassar wrote. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
      The letter “tells me you still don’t get it,” Aquilina said, tossing the letter dismissively.
      “I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir,” she added.

      ‘Nearly infinite’

      The sentence brings to an end a wrenching seven days of victim impact statements as part of Nassar’s plea deal.
      A total of 156 victims spoke, recounting similar stories of how they went to Nassar to receive treatment for sports injuries only to be sexually assaulted and told it was a form of treatment.

      Nassar gets up to 175 years in prison

      Nassar’s victims, in their own words

      Aly Raisman: ‘The tables have turned’

      ‘Little girls don’t stay little forever’

      WATCH: Nassar speaks

      From victims to an ‘army of survivors

      Who knew what, and when?

      Gymnastics families affected everywhere

      The judge these victims needed

      Opinion: How he got away with it

      “The breadth and ripple of this defendant’s abuse and destruction is nearly infinite,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said in her remarks before the sentencing.
      Many of the women said that when they spoke up about the treatment, they were ignored or their concerns brushed aside by organizations in power, primarily USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the US Olympic Committee.
      The final speaker was Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast who first made Nassar’s abuse public in a September 2016 story in the Indy Star. She meticulously laid out the ways that the systems failed her and other women and allowed this abuse to continue for so long.
      “Women and girls banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it,” she said.
      Nassar sat and listenedon the witness stand, sometimes hiding his head in his hands or wiping away tears with a tissue.
      Separately, he has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for federal child pornography charges. He also has pleaded guilty to three charges of criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County in Michigan and is due to be sentenced on those charges on January 31.
      Between the three sentences, Nassar, 54, will never get out of prison, Aquilina said.
      But the judge reminded everyone in the courtroom that the focus of the week-long sentencing hearing was the victims — or survivors, as many have called themselves. One by one, women and their families came forward to confront Nassar and explain how he used his respected position to molest young, injured girls.
      “I think what we’ve seen over the past week may have been a watershed moment in our country,” said attorney John Manly, who represents more than 100 women in civil lawsuits. “(This happened) because these women had the courage to get up and speak.”

      ‘We have our voices’

      The women — almost all of whom initially met Nassar for a sports-related injury — said that, because of the abuse, they struggled with anxiety, depression and instances of self-harm. Others said they no longer trust doctors or that they shrink from any physical touch.
      “Sexual abuse is so much more than a disturbing physical act,” Kyle Stephens, the first victim to speak, said last week. “It changes the trajectory of a victim’s life, and that is something that nobody has the right to do.”
      But the women also showed remarkable resolve and bravery, staring down Nassar in court and calling out the systems of power that protected him for more than two decades. The victims include some of the most famous Olympic gymnasts in American history, including gold medalist Aly Raisman, as well as athletes at Michigan State University and at USA Gymnastics.
      “We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” Raisman said. “The tables have turned, Larry. We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.”
      Court officials initially expected 88 victims to speak in court. But that number nearly doubled over the course of the sentencing hearing as more and more women came forward, inspired to speak out by what many called an “army of survivors.”
      “We were ultimately strong enough to take you down,” Kaylee Lorincz said on Wednesday. “Not one by one, but by an army of survivors. We are Jane Does no more.”
      Judge Aquilina allowed everyone who wished to speak a chance to be heard, and she offered personal responses to each woman in court. Legal experts said her intimate comments were unusual, but Nassar’s victims praised Aquilina for doing what so many others had failed to do: listen.

      Fallout only beginning

      Though the sentencing marks the end of Nassar’s time in the public eye, it has focused critical attention on USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, the institutions that employed Nassar for about two decades. A number of women have accused the organizations of turning a blind eye to Nassar’s abuse and even pressuring outspoken victims into silence.
      “Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure,” Amanda Thomashow said in court. “That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened I was ignored and my voice was silenced.”
      All three organizations have denied wrongdoing and said they reported the sexual abuse allegations to authorities once they learned about them.
      Still, the fallout at those organizations has moved slowly and then all at once. Michigan State University asked the state attorney general to investigate its response to the abuse, and President Lou Anna Simon has faced calls for her resignation.
      In the past week, USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, the training facility where the abuse happened, and three leaders of its board stepped down under pressure.
      The US Olympic Committee called on the rest of the USA Gymnastics board to step down and said it was considering decertifying USA Gymnastics as a national governing body, according to a statement from USOC CEO Scott Blackmun on Wednesday. The USOC statement also apologized for failing to stop Nassar’s abuse and for its inadequate response at his trial.
      “The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are,” Blackmun wrote. “We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man, and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams.
      “The Olympic family is among those that have failed you.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/larry-nassar-sentencing/index.html

      Southern California fires growing quickly, forcing thousands to evacuate

      Ventura, California (CNN)Tens of thousands fled their homes Tuesday as several incredibly fast-moving brush fires pushed by howling Santa Ana winds scorched parts of Southern California.

      “Fires are breaking out across the so. Cal. Region… Be fire safe. Firefighters are working very hard to minimize damage to property. Evacuations are taking place in many places in Southern California,” the Ventura County Fire Department tweeted.
      Unpredictable winds and extremely dry brush, victim of little rainfall over the past three months, fueled at least five blazes.
        In Los Angeles, at least 500 firefighters watched a fire go from 4,000 acres to 11,000 in a matter of hours.
        “We simply don’t know what this fire will do,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
        To the west, the biggest blaze had zero containment and it had grown to 50,000 acres — about 78 square miles — in just 19 hours.
        Some homes were ablaze in the northern part of Ventura, a city of more than 100,000 on the Pacific coast. More than a quarter of the city’s residents had been told to get out.

        Latest developments

        • Mass exodus: Garcetti said about 150,000 people in Los Angeles were affected by evacuation orders for the Creek fire near Sylmar and Lake View Terrace.
        • Please go: About 38,000 people were under mandatory evacuation in Ventura County as fire officials warned the powerful winds could push flames farther into the city of Ventura. One official said, “It’s important that you heed the advice to evacuate, please.”
        • Responders hurt: Two firefighters who were injured at the site of the Creek fire were “doing fine,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. No civilians have been hurt, he said.
        Blazing fast: The large fire, known as the Thomas fire, was burning at nearly an acre per second. At that speed, it would have covered Manhattan’s Central Park in about 14 minutes.
        • Gutted by flames: Vista del Mar Hospital, an 82-bed mental health facility in northwestern Ventura, was fully evacuated two hours before it burned, county fire engineer Richard Macklin said.
        • State response: Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for Ventura County, freeing state resources such as the National Guard to support response efforts.
        Other fires: The Rye fire near Santa Claritain Los Angeles County had grown to about 5,000 acres. In San Bernardino County, a 100-acre and a 50-acre fire sprang up.

        Santa Ana winds and dry conditions

        The Thomas fire jumped to thousands of acres with startling speed as Santa Ana winds, blowing as fast as 50 mph, carried its embers. It engulfed dry chaparral and climbed through steep terrain.
        Satellite images show how fast it lit up neighborhoods at night.
        The winds were part of the season’s “strongest and longest” Santa Ana event.The Santa Anas are strong, dry winds that high-pressure systems push from east to west, from the mountains and desert areas down into the Los Angeles area.
        Wind gusts reached between 35 to 50 mph, with relative humidity at 3 to 10%, NWS incident meterologist Rich Thompson said. The winds were expected to decrease Tuesday night, but are expected to kick back up late Wednesday into Thursday. A red-flag warning is in effect until 8 p.m. PT on Friday.
        “We expect to be out here all week fighting and containing this fire,” Garcetti, the Los Angeles mayor, said of the Creek fire.
        Dry conditions won’t help. The county is in a period of moderate drought, the US Drought Monitor says.

        ‘I saw a skyscraper inferno of smoke’

        Erik Nasarenko, a Ventura city councilman and former mayor,said he was at a council meeting Monday evening when the city manager told him his neighborhood was being evacuated.
        “I left the meeting, raced home, and I saw a skyscraper inferno of smoke,” Nasarenko said. After collecting important documents from his home, he was about to pick up family photo albums when approaching flames made him reconsider.
        “I saw the orange glow, and I just said, ‘Let’s go.’ ” Nasarenko said he, his wife and two children drove to his parents’ home near San Fernando.
        He doesn’t yet know the fate of his house, but he said neighbors told him they saw nearby structures on fire.

        A knock on the door

        Orange flames glow threateningly close to a Ventura neighborhood in video recorded by Eric Rosenberg. He and his wife were alerted to the fire around 12:30 a.m. when a neighbor knocked on his door.
        “(The) power was out and (my) phone’s internet was out,” he said. “I texted a friend a mile or so away who gave me more info.”
        “We had packed the car at about 1 a.m. and left right away when the police said it was time to go” three hours later, he said.
        Rosenberg and his wife are currently at his parents’-in-law home in Carpinteria, about 25 minutes from their home. “We can see the billowing smoke clouds in the distance,” Rosenberg said.

        Thousands without power

        The fire burned down power lines, at one point leaving more than 260,000 homes and businesses without power in Ventura County and neighboring Santa Barbara County, said Susan Cox, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison.
        By early Tuesday, power had been restored to all but 20,000 customers — but more outages were possible because flames were burning along power transmission paths, Cox said.
        As the fire spread, the nearby hills glowed bright orange while residents in Santa Paula threw belongings into cars as they began to evacuate, according to video footage from CNN affiliates.
        About 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze or heading to the area to help, said county fire engineer Macklin.
        “I’ve never seen a fire burn down so many structures so fast in my (30-year) career,” Macklin said.

        One airborne firefighter tweeted dramatic video of the Creek Fire, showing choking smoke and at least one tall tree engulfed in flames.
        “Unbelievable conditions,” Michael Dubron wrote.
        In some areas, the winds made it impossible for firefighters to use airplanes to attack the fire, officials said.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/05/us/ventura-county-fire-california/index.html

        Day care driver expected to face charges after boy found dead in van

        (CNN)A Florida day care center employee is expected to face charges after a 3-year-old boy was found dead in a parked van, police in Orlando said Tuesday.

        Myles Hill was found on the floor at the back of the van parked at the Little Miracles Academy day care center around 6:30 p.m. on Monday, police told reporters. Police Chief John Mina said authorities believe he had been in the vehicle since around 9 a.m. that morning. The high temperature in Orlando on Monday was about 93 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Weather Underground.
        The cause of Myles’ death has not been determined, but Mina said that based on the evidence, it is believed to be heat-related. “This was an absolute tragedy that could have been prevented,” Mina told reporters on Tuesday.
          The van is used by employees to transport children from one day care location to another — as well as pick them up and drop them off at their homes.
          Mina said an employee, who has not been named publicly, had used the van Monday to move a group of children, including Myles, from one location to another. The employee dropped the children off and returned the van to the first location at around 9 a.m. It then sat in the parking lot until police were called later that night.It was unclear whether the employee locked the van after using it.
          Myles would have turned 4 on August 22.
          The Little Miracles Academy could not be reached by CNN. Multiple calls were unanswered and the website for the day care was down.

          No head count taken

          Employees found Myles’ body after his grandmother and legal guardian called the center because he was not dropped off at home that afternoon. Family members said employees at the center told them that Myles had not been seen at the day care center all day, according to CNN affiliate News 13.
          Vivian Chaney, who identified herself as Myles’ aunt to News 13, said that Myles’ attendance never came up when family members called the center on Monday to ask about school uniforms. “There should have been some kind of head count,” Chaney told News 13.
          The employee who drove the van allegedly told police there was no head count of the children when they were dropped off at the second location — and staff did not realize Myles was still in the van. Mina said he was unaware of any procedure the academy had for contacting families when a child who was expected at the center did not arrive.
          Mina said there are charges pending against the employee, but refused to expand on what the charges might be — and did not identify the individual involved. An autopsy is being conducted and charges will be filed once it is complete, Mina said.
          If Myles’ death is determined to be heat-related, he will be the 32nd child this year to die in a hot car in the United States — and the fifth in Florida, police said. An average of 37 children die each year in hot cars, according to safety organization Kids and Cars.

          Center closed ‘until further notice’

          Inspection reports from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) indicate that Little Miracles Academy has failed to comply with multiple standards for personnel records, supervision and transportation, dating back to 2015.
          In June 2015, the DCF found that staff had failed to include a signed Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Requirements form in its personnel records. According to the department, all child care personnel are required by law to report any “suspicions of child abuse, neglect or abandonment.”
          In March 2017, the department found that staff were not “within sight and hearing” of the children during nap time. In July, the department said the facility’s transportation log failed to include multiple required elements, including destination and arrival times and locations.
          Mina told reporters Tuesday that the DCF is conducting an “operational investigation” of Little Miracles Academy in response to Myles’ death.
          According to a tweet from News 13 reporter Jerry Hume, a note has been placed on the doors of Little Miracles Academy that says “closed until further notice.”

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/08/us/orlando-day-care-van-death/index.html

          Honorary Alaska ‘mayor,’ Stubbs the cat, dies at 20

          (CNN)In today’s political climate, catty politicians claw for every vote, but the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, was different. His ability to unite through cuddles and his fondness for naps made him remarkable, and this mayor — Stubbs the cat — also proved that opposable thumbs aren’t necessary for success in politics.

          The honorary mayor of the small Alaska town, elected as a write-in in 1997 due to a paucity of viable human candidates, died at age 20, according to a Saturday news release from his owners.
          “He was a trouper until the very last day of his life,” Stubbs’ owners said. “You are are a remarkable cat and we will dearly miss you.”

            A life in the spotlight

            Stubbs served Talkeetna for 20 years. His office, at Nagley’s Store, became a destination for locals and tourists alike who sought sage council from the cat.
            And although Stubbs lacked the legislative and rhetorical prowess of a typical politician, he always did well in the polls.
            “Over 75% of visitors ask ‘Where’s the mayor?’ or come in with this statement ‘I have an appointment with the mayor,'” the news release said. “I think we heard those two statements over 100 times a day during our first year.”
            Stubbs’ career wasn’t completely free of controversy, though.
            In 2013, Stubbs suffered a vicious attack from a neighborhood dog that left him sidelined in a hospital.
            But even a punctured lung, fractured sternum and deep lacerations couldn’t keep him from his duties. Stubbs recovered and assumed all his previous mayoral responsibilities.

            A steady health decline

            Although he loved the attention as a kitten and younger cat, Stubbs’ life in the public eye eventually began to wear on him.
            He began a retreat from public life in 2015 due to old age, and he cut back on visits to the store, according to the news release.
            By 2017, Stubbs just wasn’t having it anymore.
            “Stubbs did a couple TV shows and more than a handful of interviews, but was not fond of the camera and all the people; it had gotten to be too much for him,” his owners said.
            In the wake of his death, his owners hinted another of their kittens, Denali, may assume his role.
            “We couldn’t have asked for a better understudy than Denali — he really has followed in Stubbs’ pawprints in just about everything.”

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/23/us/mayor-cat-stubbs-dies-at-20/index.html

            Who are the parole board members deciding O.J.’s fate?

            (CNN)At least four people will determine Thursday whether OJ Simpson will soon be released from prison.

            If the first four members of the Nevada parole board attending Simpson’s hearing in Carson City don’t all vote the same way, then two other commissioners will be called upon to try to reach a majority.
            If it’s an even split at 3-3, Simpson will have to wait for a new hearing in January, by which time a new commissioner will give the board seven members.
              Here’s what the state of Nevada has revealed on its website about each parole board member:

              Connie S. Bisbee

              • Position:
              • Chairwoman

              • Will attend hearing?
              • Yes, she will preside over the hearing. Was also at Simpson’s 2013 parole hearing

              • Years on Parole Board: 14 total, eight as chairwoman
              • Most recent former job:
              • Associate warden of programs for the Nevada Department of Corrections

              • Other jobs:
              • Judicial services director in northern Florida until 1999, US Air Force

              • Education: Criminal justice, Troy (Alabama) State University; master’s degree in Counseling and Human Development, Troy State

              Tony Corda

              • Position:
              • Commissioner

              • Will attend hearing?
              • Yes, was also at Simpson’s 2013 parole hearing

              • Years on Parole Board: Eight years
              • Most recent former job:
              • Associate warden of programs at Northern Nevada Correctional Center, 2 years

              • Other jobs:
              • Correctional officer, classification analyst at Department of Corrections

              • Education: Criminal justice, University of Nevada at Reno

              Adam Endel

              • Position:
              • Commissioner

              • Will attend hearing?
              • Yes, was also at Simpson’s 2013 parole hearing

              • Years on Parole Board: Eight years
              • Most recent former job:
              • Associate warden of programs at Ely State Prison, 8 years

              • Other jobs:
              • Correctional officer, caseworker III, and associate warden of programs, 18 years total

              • Education: Criminal justice administration, BS, Central Missouri State University

              Susan Jackson

              • Position:
              • Commissioner

              • Will attend hearing?
              • Yes, was also at Simpson’s 2013 parole hearing

              • Years on Parole Board: Nine years
              • Most recent former job:
              • Senior investigator with the Nevada Department of Public Safety, 15 years

              • Other jobs:
              • Agent with Nevada State Gaming Control Board; senior investigator with the Attorney General’s Office

              • Education: FBI Academy

              Ed Gray

              • Position:
              • Commissioner

              • Will attend hearing?
              • No, will watch from Las Vegas

              • Years on Parole Board: 10 years
              • Most recent former job:
              • Parole board case hearing representative, 14 years

              • Other jobs:
              • US Air Force and US Civil Service

              • Education: Post-secondary and adult education, BS, University of Nevada at Las Vegas; Human resource management, associate degree, Community College of the Air Force; Business management, associate degree, Community College of Southern Nevada

              Michael Keeler

              • Position:
              • Commissioner

              • Will attend hearing?
              • No, will watch in Las Vegas

              • Years on Parole Board:
              • 11 years

              • Most recent former job:
              • Southern Nevada Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Service

              • Other jobs:
              • Public services intern, case manager, teaching parent, clinical social work intern, clinical social worker, supervisor, psychiatric emergency services director, inpatient administrative coordinator, clinic director, and services coordination director, all with state of Nevada.US Army veteran.

              • Education: Social work, undergraduate and graduate degrees, University of Nevada at Las Vegas

              Vacant position

              Christopher DeRicco will become the seventh parole board member. He takes the place of Lucille Monterde, who served for three years.

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/us/oj-simpson-parole-board/index.html

              Florida alligators: Rarely killers, central to state’s identity

              Oviedo, Florida (CNN)Florida alligators have a bad rep right now.

              After one of the reptiles killed 2-year-old Lane Graves at a Disney resort this week, people are understandably wary of the predators.
              But the truth is that while they’re doubtless dangerous, attacks on humans are rare, as numbers from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission demonstrate:
                — There are 1.3 million alligators in the state, roughly one for every 15 residents.
                — Despite their prevalence, alligators have attacked only 383 people since 1948. Of those, 126 were minor attacks, meaning the victims didn’t require first aid. That means, in almost seven decades, fewer than four attacks a year were serious.
                — In that same timespan, there were only 24 fatalities, fewer than half of the death toll wrought by the Pulse nightclub shooter just days before young Lane was tragically killed.
                Floridians are astutely aware of the dangers they pose and, in fact, have embraced the animals, making them a central part of the state’s identity.
                No, they’re not the draw of theme parks or the Gulf Coast or South Beach, but Florida is aware the beasts carry a certain mystique and has capitalized on it in many ways.
                Here is a look at how alligators are as much a part of Florida as oranges, palm trees and hurricanes.


                As you pull into The Black Hammock in Oviedo, it feels like something out of a Carl Hiaasen novel: Locals and tourists swig cold beer beneath palm trees on a Lake Jesup peninsula hosting a fleet of airboats covered by a tin roof.
                Alligators bask in concrete enclosures, as colorful parrots caw and say hello from their chain-link aviaries. Alligator sculptures and paintings can be found throughout the compound, which includes a restaurant, gift shop and the Lazy Gator Bar.
                A big draw is the alligator feedings, said Samantha, 24, a gift shop employee who asked not to give her last name. She’s been coming to Black Hammock with her family since she was 12 and began working there in October.
                “You can hold the baby gators,” she said, pointing to a 2-foot female in the gift shop aquarium. “We’ve got Firecracker here and up at the restaurant we’ve got Max. … He gets a little cranky sometimes, but she’s the sweetest. You pull her out, she barely struggles at all. You lay her in your arm and she’ll just sit there, like a cat. You just pet her.”
                For $2, you can buy a plastic cup of hot dog chunks, which you attach to a wire at the end of a cane pole and drop into one of the enclosures. As whimsical as it sounds, it gives you a sense of the animal — its lethargy, poor vision and ineptitude at chewing.

                Airboat tours


                  JUST WATCHED

                  Officials still searching for gator that killed boy

                MUST WATCH

                Like The Black Hammock, many outfits offer airboat tours into gator country. The best time to see them is during the cooler spring months.
                Scott Vuncannon of Marsh Landing Adventures in St. Cloud has been giving the tours for 12 years, and despite the abundance of wildlife in these ecosystems, tourists often tell him the same thing.
                “Most of them want to see an alligator in the wild. They want to see something that will come up and say hi,” he said.
                Vuncannon’s happy to oblige, he said.
                “Everybody gets one guaranteed. If I’ve got to keep you out here the rest of the day, you’re going to see one alligator,” he promised.


                The Seminoles claim alligator wrestling began with their tribe. According to an Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum blog post, it began with Seminoles hunting the animal for food.
                Billy Walker, alligator wrestler on the Big Cypress Reservation, explained in the post — recalling what his grandfather told him — that tourists would see the native Americans tying alligators to a post and thought they were wrestling them. The tourists threw money, Walker said.
                The blog post goes on to city the book, “Enduring Seminoles: From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism,” which says the practice began in 1910 on an alligator farm in Miami.
                Today, there are plenty of places in the Sunshine State to see wranglers perform the feat.


                It’s tough to go far in Florida without witnessing the advertising prowess of the state’s native crocodilian.
                While some applications seem perfectly appropriate, others seem a stretch.
                What led proprietors, for instance, to call their Orlando business Gator Screen Inc.? No telling. The owners didn’t return a call and email seeking an explanation.
                There is a lawnmower parts company in Longwood that co-opts the name. That makes a little more sense. There’s a tire shop in Oviedo. There are LOTS of bars and restaurants. Perhaps there is no rhyme or reason. Floridians just like their gators …


                … Which probably explains why the creature is such a popular mascot for the state’s schools.
                Baker High, Wewahitchka High, Land O’ Lakes High, Escambia High in Pensacola, Everglades High in Miramar, Island Coast High in Cape Coral — Gators, all of them.
                But perhaps there is none more famous than the Gators from the University of Florida, who call their homefield, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, “The Swamp.”
                How did the state’s flagship university come to be known as the Gators? After the school formed its football team in 1907, local drugstore owner Phillip Miller wanted to order pennants for the university’s fans. But the school had no mascot.
                “Miller thought of the alligator, a native Floridian animal, and went back to Florida putting the gator paraphernalia in his store using orange alligators on blue banners. The rest, as they say, is history,” according to the university.

                Viral intrusions


                  JUST WATCHED

                  Gigantic gator spotted on golf course

                MUST WATCH

                YouTube is rife with strange alligator encounters from Florida. You have the gator attacking a truck, and myriad videos of gators taking dips in swimming pools and invading porches.
                But perhaps one of the most shocking videos is of a massive gator trotting across a gold course in Palmetto.
                Ken Powell, the regional manager in charge of the Buffalo Creek Golf Course, said the course held a contest and selected the name Chubbs, after the golf instructor played by Carl Weathers in the movie, “Happy Gilmore.”
                Powell took over management of the course five years ago, he said, and though video of the dinosauresque reptile recently went viral, there were pictures of Chubbs on the course when Powell arrived.
                “Everybody knows he’s here,” he said.
                There are signs on the course warning golfers to be vigilant, he said, but there’s never been an attack. Actually, you hardly see Chubbs, or any other alligator, out and about, except during the spring mating season, he said.
                “He’s in a perfect ecological location,” Powell said. “There’s lots of food in the (nearby) reservoir, and he goes from pond to pond during mating season.”


                When you have 1.3 million alligators walking around, it’s no surprise people eat it.
                While the most common variation is fried tail, chefs across the state have demonstrated their culinary creativity in cooking up the critter.
                The Deck in Fort Lauderdale serves up gator chowder (and, occasionally, omelets), Evan’s Neighborhood Pizza serves up a gator pie with sausage and peppers, The Pit Bar-B-Q in Miami boasts a gator burger, Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa will fix you some gator ribs and the Pink Gator Caf at the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota is famed for its alligator stew.
                Bon appetit.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/18/us/florida-alligators/index.html

                Baton Rouge cop killer left note, fired at least 43 rounds

                (CNN)The Louisiana law officers who killed Gavin Long after he shot dead three of their colleagues in a targeted attack on police in Baton Rouge last summer were justified “and certainly saved other lives,” a prosecutor said Friday.

                East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III released the results of an 11-month investigation into the July 17 attack, in which Long killed three cops and injured three others in a nation already roiled by several police-involved shootings that month.
                Long, a 29-year-old black Missouri resident and discharged Marine, arrived in Baton Rouge five days earlier and was determined to kill police officers, “black or white … as long as they had a badge,” Moore said in a news conference.
                  Moore’s investigation report, as well as newly released surveillance videos and police dispatch recordings, presents the fullest picture yet of how the shootings unfolded that Sunday morning outside several businesses in Louisiana’s capital.
                  Here’s some of what was revealed:

                  Suicide note: Targeting ‘bad cops … good cops’

                  In a three-page note found in his rented vehicle, Long wrote that he needed to bring destruction “upon bad cops as well as good cops” because of what he saw as the justice system’s failure to prosecute bad police officers who commit crimes against “my people,” Moore said.
                  The note didn’t mention specific events. But other evidence released Friday, as well as known information about his travels and YouTube videos, indicates Long monitored events dominating national news that month:
                  — The July 5 shooting death by police of black Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling.
                  — The July 7 killings of five police officers in Dallas by a black man who said he was upset by the shootings of Sterling and Philando Castile, a black motorist killed by police that month in Minnesota.
                  Long left a trail of writings and videos describing his thoughts and worldview under the name Cosmo Setepenra.
                  On July 10, he posted a YouTube video in which said he was in Dallas, days after the killings there. He talked of recent protests and officer-involved shootings, and of a notion that victims of bullying need to resort to brute force.
                  Police say he drove to Baton Rouge on July 12, then spent nights in several hotels. In his note, Long called his actions a “necessary evil” that he hoped would spur good cops to demand that bad ones be held accountable.
                  The note appears similar to a message that he reportedly emailed to an Ohio rapper — someone he didn’t know but had communicated with online — shortly before the shooting.
                  A search of Long’s laptop, also found in his car, showed it was used to search for information about the two police officers who shot Sterling, the report says.

                  He fired 43 rounds over nearly 14 minutes

                  Long killed three officers that morning: Baton Rouge police officers Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald, and East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy Brad Garafola.
                  He also shot and injured officers Chad Montgomery and Bruce Simmons, and East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy Nick Tullier. Tullier, shot in the head and abdomen, was in a coma for four months before being transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Houston.
                  Long fired 43 rounds. Here’s how the nearly 14-minute attack began, according to Moore and surveillance videos:
                  — Long parked his rental car outside a beauty supply store, walked out with a semiautomatic rifle, checked an unoccupied police car outside a nearby B-Quick convenience store, returned to his car and drove away.
                  — Someone went into the B-Quick and told Gerald, who was at the checkout line, that a man was outside with a rifle.
                  — Gerald and Garafola, who also was at the B-Quick, went outside to look for the gunman and radio for backup. Jackson, at a car wash next door, went to the B-Quick in response.
                  — The three officers walked around the beauty store. Long drove back to the area, parked and walked toward the same store.
                  — Long, wearing black clothes and a mask, walks past several civilians, at one point waving to one group.
                  — Long caught up from behind, shooting and killing Jackson and Gerald. Montgomery and a partner arrived in a car; Long shot and injured Montgomery.
                  — “Shots fired! Officers down,” Garafola radioed before trying to reach Gerald. Garafola died in an exchange of gunfire with Long, who then shot Gerald’s body twice more.

                  Police fired 106 times; Long had 45 wounds

                  Long eventually shot Tullier and Simmons, who arrived where Long had parked his car outside a fitness studio. SWAT officers arrived and shot Long in the leg. Collapsed on the ground, Long reached for his dropped rifle, but five SWAT officers fired, killing him, Moore said.
                  Throughout the battle, officers fired 106 times. Eighty-nine of those shots came from SWAT officers.
                  Moore said long had a total of 45 entry and exit wounds.

                  Long had alcohol, methamphetamine in system

                  A toxicology report found Long had a blood-alcohol content of .021%. It also detected methamphetamine in his system, Moore said.
                  A separate semiautomatic rifle and a 9mm pistol were found in the rental car, Moore’s report said.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/30/us/baton-rouge-gavin-long-police-killings/index.html

                  Transgender firefighter marches as NYC Pride Parade grand marshal

                  (CNN)When Brooke Guinan joined the New York City Fire Department in 2008 she publicly presented herself as a man. She had no idea that on Sunday she’d be one of the NYC Pride Parade’s grand marshals while identifying as a transgender woman.

                  Guinan began identifying as a transgender woman in 2011, three years into her firefighting career at FDNY. She first came out as a gay man at a young age, but began to question her gender identity in college.
                  Before joining the department, Guinan was unsure what her professional life would look like.
                    Despite being a third generation firefighter Guinan did not think there was a place for LGBTQ people in the male-dominated fire department.
                    But Guinan’s love of public service ultimately drove her to continue her family legacy in the fire department. There was no LGBTQ training in the beginning.
                    During her first few years in the department, she served in both firefighting and administrative capacities.
                    For the past two years, Guinan has stepped out of the firehouse and has served the FDNY as its LGBTQ outreach coordinator.
                    In this role she has directed and produced training tools and services to better equip the FDNY to understand and work with the LGBTQ community.
                    “The firehouse can be fun, but I am so enamored with my community and I am very pleased and grateful to do a different kind of lifesaving work in the fire department,” Guinan said.
                    The FDNY has promoted LGBTQ experiences through their social media pages and has also produced its own video in support of the “It Gets Better” campaign, highlighting the stories of LGBTQ public safety employees.
                    James Fallarino, spokesperson for NYC Pride, said Guinan appears to be the first openly transgender member of the FDNY. She is the first transgender public safety employee to serve as an individual grand marshal. In 2002, two organizations — the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) and FireFLAG — served as grand marshals after 9/11.
                    Guinan participated in the Pride parade for years before being invited to be a grand marshal.
                    “It is an amazing honor to be the Grand Marshal of this year’s Pride parade,” she said. “I have always found inspiration in other people’s voices and it is an honor to be given an opportunity for my voice to be heard.”
                    She was one of four grand marshals. The others are Krishna Stone, the director of community relations at Gay Men’s Health Crisis; Geng Le, a leader of the LGBTQ equality movement in the People’s Republic of China; and the American Civil Liberties Union.
                    “Our 2017 Grand Marshals are a snapshot of the numerous organizations, individuals, and philanthropists that will leads us through this unprecedented time in our nation,” noted NYC Pride March Director Julian Sanjivan in a press release.
                    The NYC Pride March is the largest pride parade in the United States and is meant to celebrate the LGBTQ community and bring awareness to issues the community faces. The parade originated 48 years ago in the wake of the Stonewall riots, a series of protests by the LGBTQ community against a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in 1969.

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/25/us/firefighter-transgender-woman-pride/index.html

                    Four employees fired over day care van death

                    (CNN)Four Arkansas day care employees were fired Wednesday after the death of a 5-year-old who was left inside a van all day.

                    The staff did not follow company policies and procedures, Ascent Children’s Health Services CEO Dan Sullivan said in a statement. Had they followed protocol “this tragedy would not have occurred,” he said.
                    “There are simply no words to express the overwhelming sadness we feel at the death of this child. We are heartbroken and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Ascent will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and state agencies as they investigate this tragic incident,” Sullivan said.
                      The West Memphis, Arkansas, location has been closed since the Monday incident.
                      The boy’s mother told CNN affiliate WMC the van picked him up around 6:30 a.m. He may have been asleep when the van arrived at the day care early Monday and never got off the van, West Memphis Police said.
                      The van remained in the parking lot all day. The day care’s staff found him dead in his booster seat when they came to load children in the van to go home after 3 p.m., police said.
                      Police said the temperature in the day care parking lot was 91 degrees Monday afternoon when authorities responded to the incident.
                      Officials with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which regulates day care centers in the state, are investigating, police said.
                      Ascent’s CEO said he had spoken with the child’s family to express his “deepest sympathy.” He said he has offered to assist with funeral expenses.

                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/14/us/arkansas-child-death-employees-fired/index.html